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Male Happiness on the Decline? Men Less Satisfied, Less Confident Than Ever

A widely read 2009 study described a decline in self-reported well-being among American women. Newly published research finds this trend is also true for men.

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That said, they argued these new results “need to be considered alongside a broad array of existing evidence pointing to a relative decline in the measured well-being of women in both the U.S. and Europe.”

While their primary focus was the General Social Survey, “the standard for happiness research in the U.S.,” they also discovered “a similar relative decline in women’s well-being when analyzing satisfaction data from the Virginia Slims surveys,” Wolfers and Stevenson note. “We also find similar trends in nearly every European survey. And a large-scale survey of high school seniors yields similar patterns.”

So, depending upon the data you look at, either half or all of the population is increasingly discontented. Aside from the aforementioned economic factors, Herbst suggests the reasons may be found in the societal trends reported by Robert Putnam in his 2000 book Bowling Alone.

“Americans over the past several decades became increasingly detached from friends and family, participated in fewer social and civic activities, and expressed greater mistrust over political institutions,” he writes. “There is indeed a large body of evidence indicating that social connectedness — what Putnam refers to as social capital — has a powerful influence on self-reported health and happiness.”

“Individuals who volunteer and participate in clubs, spend a lot of time visiting friends, and show interest in politics are substantially more satisfied with life,” Herbst writes. He adds that as people gradually move away from such communal activities in favor of more solitary pursuits, and economic insecurity rises, a drop in life satisfaction is hardly surprising.

“It is difficult to believe that changes of this magnitude could have influenced women’s well-being without also influencing men,” he adds. Perhaps when Mick Jagger moaned that he  can’t get no satisfaction, he was speaking for us all.

Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Ventura County Star.

 
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